The stuff I put in my mouth

The mystery began in the fall of 2007. I was having lunch with my pastor at a vegetarian cafe downtown. It was a weekday and I had blocked off 90 minutes on my calendar at work. I was looking forward to chatting with Reverend Sandy and getting to know her better.

I ordered a black bean burger, something I had eaten many times at other restaurants, though not at this cafe as far as I could recall. I took a few bites of my burger and as Reverend Sandy and I continued to chat about one's spiritual journey through life, I started to realize that my tongue was sort of burning. And then my throat followed suit. I then realized that the left side of my lower lip was starting to swell. The pastor was not looking at me oddly or anything, so I came to the conclusion that whatever was going on, it must not be TOO bad.

Now, a sensible person would probably stop eating the sandwich at this point. A hungry person who didn't realize she was having an allergic reaction, however, would keep eating. Each bite was less fun than the last. The burger didn't even taste good anymore. Finally, when my palms started to itch like mad, I abandoned my lunch altogether. My torso was starting to itch and I began to wheeze a bit (I do have asthma).

I got in my car and took a hit off my rescue inhaler. I took a peek at my ribcage and confirmed that I was breaking out in hives (sexy!). It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to make it back to work, so I called in and then went home and took Benadryl. It took four Benadryl to tame this thing - enough to bring down a horse, I suspect.

The next day, I looked at the cafe's menu to see if I could figure out what ingredient may have caused the reaction, but it yielded few clues. I'd never dealt with a food allergy before and I wasn't sure where to start. I just knew I wasn't going to eat that particular black bean burger at that particular restaurant ever again.

My next reaction came in February of 2008. My mom was visiting and she picked up a bag of bulk granola cereal at the grocery store. She poured herself a bowl of the granola and found that it was tragically stale. She decided to "doctor it up." She filled a pizza pan with the cereal, sprinkled cinnamon and other stuff on it, and put it in the oven to bake. Later, on my way through the kitchen, I took a pinch of the still-warm granola and tossed it into my yap. My lip swelled immediately. I brushed my teeth, took some Benadryl, and spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch. I have to assume that my mother's attempt on my life was unintentional. I am, after all, her favorite.

Since then, I've had a couple more reactions. The list of stuff I can't eat is growing longer, but I still can't figure out what ingredient is causing it. Another reaction occurred after I ate whole wheat pasta with jarred red sauce. Thinking that some sort of herb or spice was at the route of my allergy, I decided that it must have been the sauce. So I tossed out the sauce and bought a different kind. Then I repeated the scenario (ate the very same meal) about a week later and realized that it had been the pasta, not the sauce. However, I don't think I'm allergic to wheat - I eat wheat bread all the time.

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker at church who brought in several loaves of freshly baked bread. My daughter was eating a slice of a sweet chocolate bread. I took a bite and realized immediately that if I ate so much as another crumb, I would spend the rest of the day zonked out on Benadryl. I was tempted to ask the lady for the recipe, since telling her "Hey, your bread made me sick" didn't seem appropriate.

My most recent reaction was to some store-bought brownies that a friend brought to a ladies' weekend getaway. You have no idea how much I wanted to eat those brownies. I have mourned them ever since.

If either of my readers has any idea what is making me sick, please send your thoughts my way. I do have an allergist who treats my asthma, so I will ask him about it on my next visit. I have no idea how one goes about discovering which ingredient, or combination thereof, is provoking an allergy. I'd better not develop an allergy to chocolate and/or wine - God would NOT do that to me, I'm sure of it.